LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The “Pope” of Holland House
John Lewis Mallet to John Whishaw, 28 January 1815

Chapter I: 1813
Chapter II: 1814
Chapter III: 1815
Chapter IV: 1816
Chapter V: 1817
Chapter VI: 1818
Chapter VII: 1819
Chapter VIII: 1820
Chapter IX: 1821
Chapter X: 1822
Chapter XI: 1824-33
Chapter XII: 1833-35
Chapter XIII: 1806-40
Chapter XIV: Appendix
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Sloane Street, Jan. 28, 1815.

My dear Sir,—I return you Lord Holland’s letter1 with many thanks for its perusal. It is with great diffidence that one ventures to differ from so good an observer and so superior a man, but I think that the bias given to his opinions by party politics is very discernible. An impartial reader would certainly conclude upon weighing Napoleon in Lord Holland’s scales, that his fall is upon the whole a loss to Europe, or at least to the countries he governed. From this conclusion I must differ.

Bonaparte’s career towards absolute despotism and corrupt government was progressive, and had made rapid strides within the last five years. The people who admired him most in France acknowledge this. Lord H.’s observations might apply with propriety to the first part of his reign, when even greater credit might be given him under one head of deserved eulogium passed in silence by his lordship; namely, his having arrested the oscillations of the French Revolution, and restored France to the benefits of a stable and regular administration. But if one is to judge of the future state of France by the experience of the last years, it was far from holding out cheering expectations to the friends of good government. A system of personal devotion to the Emperor, as unprincipled in its nature as it would have proved fateful in its consequences, was rapidly gaining ground, and was encouraged by every species

1 There is no trace of this letter in Mr. Whishaw’s papers.

of favour. Hence the discarding of such men as
Talleyrand, who were not mere tools, and the influence and authority of such a man as Count de Molé,1 whose counsels were considered as having greatly contributed to Bonaparte’s fall.

Every branch of administration felt every day more and more the effects of this system. How are we to explain otherwise the apathy of the French in the invasion of their territory?

Louis XIV. and Charles XII. were born in the lap of power, whereas Bonaparte selected his own course. To say that he was not so bad as Nero, and better than Charles XII., is really leaving the mind quite wide of the question.

Lord Holland takes no notice of Bonaparte’s antipathy to commerce, and that great feature of his government, the prohibitory system, and the means by which it was enforced. His want of good faith in financial operation, his over-reaching maxims, were totally destructive of public credit.

Whatever good effects the Revolution might have produced with regard to education and intellectual advancement, it appears to me that the system of military education universally enforced within the last ten years was to have tended materially to check them. The sameness of the education, and the narrow policy of the Government with regard to the liberty of the Press, must have had in the course of time the worst moral and intellectual effects.

1 Born 1780; died 1836. Author of “Essais de Morale et Politique,” which attracted Napoleon’s notice; in 1813 was Minister of Justice; 1836, Prime Minister of Louis Philippe.

From J. L. Mallet

It is no great praise of any Government in France that it allowed liberty of speech. The French have always enjoyed it more or less; and the influence of liberty of speech in checking despotism and erroneous policy is not to be compared to the influence of the Press.

Lord Holland does not stoop to inquire what would have been the consequences of the consolidation under one despotic power of the immense conquests of Bonaparte, and of the assimilation of laws, institutions, and commercial and military policy in so large an extent of country. The probable consequences of such a state of things appears to me almost to decide the question. Who would not rather have lived under any of the Governments of Europe during the last century than under the best of the Roman Emperors?

I was a little surprised at the repeated mention by Lord Holland in a manner rather unqualified of the gratification of national glory, as one of the advantages of Bonaparte’s government. Too much stress is also laid upon public works, in a country where there are no cross-roads or canals.

Believe me ever yours,
J. L. Mallet.